By Donald Zuhn --
On Tuesday, the House of Representatives sent H.R. 628, which would establish a pilot program in certain U.S. district courts to encourage enhancement of expertise in patent cases among district judges, to the President for his signature. The House had agreed to a Senate amendment to the bill on December 17, four days after the amended bill had been passed by the Senate. The bill, which was introduced in January 2009 by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), would permit the chief judge in certain district courts to designate district judges within the district who have made a request pursuant to the legislation to hear cases having one or more patent or plant variety protection issues to hear such cases. If the President signs the bill, the Director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts will have six months within which to designate not less than six district courts in at least three different judicial circuits where the pilot program will be carried out. The designated district courts will be selected from amongst the fifteen district courts handling the largest number of patent or plant variety protection cases, and which have (or certify to the Director that they will) adopt local rules for such cases. In addition, the bill specifies that three of the candidate districts will have at least ten district judges, at least three of which have made a request to hear cases having one or more patent or plant variety protection issues, and three of the candidate districts will have less than ten district judges, at least two of which have made the request. The pilot program would run for ten years after the designation of participating district courts.
In assessing the success of the pilot program, Congress will examine patent and plant variety protection cases heard by designated and non-designated judges and compare the rate of reversal by the Federal Circuit on the issues of claim construction and substantive patent law, as well as the period of time between the filing date of such cases and entry of summary judgment.
In addition to introducing H.R. 628, Rep. Issa also introduced a false patent marking bill (H.R. 4954) back in March (see "False Patent Marking Bill Introduced in the House").